Archive for the ‘Visualization’ Category

Your Jazz Improvisation Audit: 36 Questions That Will Show You What You REALLY Know

Monday, September 25th, 2017

It’s time to get down to business…

The business of finding out if you’re on track to achieve your musical goals and develop into the musician you want to become.

While we often focus on the solos of master musicians and important improvisation concepts here at JazzAdvice, today we’re going to focus on you. Specifically the skills you’ve developed on your musical journey.

It’s time for your “musical audit.”

But don’t freak out! An audit is simply a systematic inspection of a business’s accounts to ensure accuracy. And for musicians, this means testing your skills and knowledge to ensure that you’re on track in the essential areas of improvisation  – theory, ear training, and tunes & language.

The truth is, the way we see our musical-selves is not always entirely accurate. In your daily routine it’s easy to think “Sure, I know music theory” or “Yeah, I have decent ears” or “I know enough tunes.

However, we rarely get specific or put ourselves to the test…

What exactly do you know? Where exactly do your ears start getting fuzzy with the melody and harmony? When and where do your musical skills hit a wall?

So for the next 30 minutes grab your instrument or pull a chair up to the piano. Here are 36 questions that will cover the stuff you should’ve learned in school and the techniques you need to know get to the next level … Read More

The Jazz Musician’s Most Important Tool: How To Strengthen Your Musical Memory

Monday, February 1st, 2016

A jazz musician's most important tool

What is a jazz musician’s most important tool?

Is it their ear? Their technique? The concepts at their disposal?

All of these are extremely important, but without this one specific tool, they’re all useless…

The jazz musician’s most important tool is their memory.

Harold Mabern used to drive this point home to us all the time.

Think about it.

You can have the best ear in the world, name any sound you hear, transcribe a progression with ease…

But if you can’t retain the information you’re learning in your mind and recall it for instantaneous use later, it’s not going to help you be a better improviser.

You can’t go on stage with a book of the things you know, the lines, the tunes, the concepts…everything has to be in your mind.

And really, that’s the only stuff you actually know.

Joe Henderson took this to the extreme in his teaching style.

Joe Henderson teaching style

In general, Joe didn’t allow the student to record the lesson or write down anything on staff paper. Everything had to be memorized right away.

So what exactly does a having a great memory in terms of playing jazz music mean?

And, how can we best develop this talent?

How to use your memory in jazz

In terms of jazz improvisation, memory means two things

  1. memorizing things with your ear
  2. memorizing things with your mind

Yes, technically memorizing something with your ear still is in your mind, but nevertheless, we’ll refer to this as the “ear part”…

There’s … Read More

What Should I Practice? The 3 Essential Pieces to Practicing Jazz Improvisation: A Free Presentation

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015

What to Practice

Nearly every day we get asked, “What should I practice?”

…And, this is not an easy question to answer. In fact, it’s pretty complicated.

So, in an attempt to help everyone who has always wondered what to practice and what professionals practice, I began to put together what I had thought would be a quick short presentation.

But, as I got going, the depth of this question got more and more prevalent. It’s not that there’s so much to practice, although there is, but it’s the relationship between everything and the fact that learning how to improvise well is not a linear process.

I did my best in this presentation to illustrate this complex relationship and to showcase how you can make use of everything we talk about to architect your daily and weekly practice plans to effectively improve at jazz improvisation.

Keep in mind that the shared perspective is through how a professional might tackle things. There are no shortcuts here, just down and dirty methods of figuring out what you want to know and determining the best route there.

I sincerely hope you enjoy this presentation and if you like it, share it! Click the share icon in the lower left of the viewer to share it on your favorite social network or you can even embed the presentation on your own website!

You can Download the presentation here.


Happy New Year! 8 Musical Resolutions That Will Change Your Playing

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

A new year is the perfect time to look back at what you’ve accomplished in the practice room and to look forward  to what you still wish to achieve as a musician. It’s also a great time to make a fresh start, to realign yourself musically, and to set some new goals. So, Happy New Year!

…now what are you going to do to become a better improviser?

A while back we posted 100 New Years Resolution Ideas for the Improviser. These resolutions are great to choose from for your daily or weekly practice routines, however there are some major points that are truly pivotal in making you a better improviser. If you focus intently on these key elements, you’ll be able to transform yourself musically.

Here are 8 musical resolutions for the new year that will make you a better improviser.

I) Work on Ear Training

The #1 area of your musicianship that will make you a better improviser is your ears. Your success as an improviser depends on your ability to hear and understand the sounds around you: melodies, chord progressions, intervals, time signatures, the other musicians in your band, etc.

All of this goes directly back to your ears.

It’s important to intellectually understand the theory and construction of the music, but to truly play it you must be able to hear it. This means working on ear training.

Here are some articles that you should check out to improve your ears:

Read More

Overcoming Mental Limitations in Music

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

I can’t.

We’ve all said these fateful words at one point or another.

Fill in the blank for your own situation. “ I can’t (____)”…draw, run long distances, wake up early, stop eating cheesecake.

Everyday there are literally dozens of things that we convince ourselves that we simply cannot do, and playing music and improvising are no exception. From the tasks in the practice room that feel like too much work, to the skills that we have no experience with, to those dreaded moments that strike fear into our hearts, it’s all too easy to say I can’t and give up.

It seems natural, easy, and even trivial to say these words, but have you ever stopped to ask yourself: Is this really true?

At the moment these statements just might be true — you gave it a try, you failed, and it just didn’t work out. However, the consequences of hanging onto this limiting mindset can run deeper than you might expect, especially as a musician, and I’ll show you why.

Over the years, I’ve taught at various jazz camps and workshops and instructed hundreds of students in private lessons. A curious thing that I’ve noticed about new students is that many come in with a preset belief about themselves or performing music.

Young, old, beginner, comeback player, weekend player – it doesn’t matter. There seems to be this burdening belief that all players carry around with them about some aspect of their playing.… Read More

Visualization One Key At A Time

Friday, January 6th, 2012

visualize one key at a time

Grab a sheet of paper or take the following quiz mentally and record your response time for each:

  1. What’s a ii V in the key of F# major?
  2. If the V7 of a ii V progression is Ab7, what’s the ii chord?
  3. What’s a iii Vi in the key of Db major?
  4. If the ii chord of a ii V progression is C# minor, what’s the V7 chord?
  5. If the ii V of a key is F- Bb7, what’s the VI7 of the key?

Now, judge your answers based on correctness and speed of response. Did any of them take you more than a split second?

Be honest with yourself. Chances are a couple of these questions took at least a few seconds for you to answer. You may not think that a few seconds is a big deal, I mean, you got the correct answer, right?

The problem is that after even a second of thought we can totally lose our creative focus. The more ingrained these fundamental progressions are, the less we have to think, and the freer we become.

Chord independence

Why is it difficult to quickly conjure some chords, while others are easy? We’re very used to encountering chords in a set way. For example, after A- we expect D7. Or after D7, we expect G major. But even standards mix and match these basic chord progressions.

These slight rearrangements of the chords can shift us just enough to make it so we screw up. For … Read More

Ingraining Jazz Language Through Visualization

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

Visualize lines

We talk a lot about ingraining language. It’s vital to have an array of ideas at your fingertips for any given harmonic situation. And these ideas should be so ingrained that you can easily make them your own with little effort. Visualization can speed up the process of ingraining language tremendously.

Can’t visualize it, can’t play it

If you’ve ever seen the B-rate movie Only the Strong, you know that if you can’t ginga, you can’t fight. Just like Capoeira, in improvisation, if you can’t visualize it, you can’t play it.

Visualization is the key to playing anything. It’s an unconscious step that we all must go through to be able to play what we have in our mind. This mental image precedes everything you play whether you like it or not.

The people that seem to have everything at their fingertips are simply excellent visualizers: they can perfectly imagine what it’s like to play something before they play it, almost without even thinking.

The stuff that is easy for you to play is the stuff that is easy to visualize. In terms of easiness, aim to get anything you’re working on as easy to visualize as it is to visualize one note.

Now you’re probably thinking, “Well I don’t practice visualizing anything, so why can I play what I play?” The answer is: your body taught your mind how to visualize the line through repetition. You repeat something over and over enough, your mind “gets it,” … Read More

Visualizing Musical Progress

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

Visualization can be a very powerful tool when it comes to achieving your goals. Everyone from professional athletes to ballet dancers have used this simple, but effective technique throughout training and competition to reach their peak level of performance. The simple task of mentally preparing for challenges and envisioning success can transform and drastically improve your musical performance.

In Visualization for Jazz Improvisation, the idea of using visualization to cultivate the techniques involved in improvisation were discussed. Once you’ve explored the benefits of visualizing chord tones and progression, don’t stop there. The technique of visualization can be used to positively affect every aspect of your playing and performance. Below are four more ideas for using this technique to improve your total musicianship.

Visualizing your sound

As a musician, your sound is one of the most important aspects of your playing. Whether you play classical trumpet, folk guitar, or jazz piano, your sound is the first thing that reaches a listener; and it’s the one aspect of your musicianship that can speak directly to the emotions of the listener.

However, contrary to what most people think, your sound does not come from the mouthpiece you use, the instrument model you play on, or the etudes that you study. Yes, these factors can influence your sound, but the origins of the sound you produce run much deeper.

It’s the concept of sound in your mind, the sound you hear in your head, that determines what is going to come out of … Read More

How to Play the Blues In All Keys

Monday, February 7th, 2011
blues A recent question from a reader inquired about the blues in all keys:
I'm a sax player and have been working through the blues in all keys for the past few months, and was wondering if you guys had any tips, tricks, or any advice?
We've all heard it time and time again: Learn the blues in all keys. It seems like a daunting task, but with these tips, you'll be well on your way.

Understand and Visualize the components of a Blues

Before you even learn to play on a blues in one key, it helps immensely to understand all the components of a blues. What do I mean by components? By components, I'm pertaining to the harmonic building blocks of the progression. For a typical blues, they consist of:
  • I dominant
  • IV dominant
  • ii V
  • iii Vi
  • iii Vi ii V (which is essentially covered by the previous 2 components, but lets be thorough)
The next step is to visualize each one of these components in relation to its tonic, in all keys. Here's the process...Read More

10 Visualization Exercises To Boost Your Chord Progression Recall

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011


If I asked you to name a iii VI ii V in the key of F#, how quickly could you conjure up the answer? If the time it takes you to think through that progression in your mind takes more than a millisecond, chances are you’re going to have a hell of a time playing over it. Common progressions like iii VI ii Vs must be so ingrained into your brain, that you don’t have to think to name them. You just know them. Visualizing these progressions daily will greatly improve your recall of common chord progressions, making it easier to think and play in all keys.

For the following 10 exercises, visualize just the chord symbols. Keep the chord symbol as simple as possible, for instance, do not visualize the “7” in a minor seventh chord or any alterations on dominants. This will help you “see” more quickly in all keys without cluttering the progression in your mind’s eye.

The goal is to clearly see in your mind’s eye a concise picture of the chord symbols for each progression in all keys.

1.) ii V I I

Start with a simple two-five progression, resolving to the tonic for two measure. Do the key of C, then move down in half steps until you’ve visualized the chord symbols in all the keys.

Two Five One

2.) ii V I

Now do a one-measure two-five resolving to the tonic for a bar. It should be easy after exercise #1. Continue through all the keys.… Read More

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